All new business owners need as much capital as they can obtain. With female-owned firms accounting for an estimated 11.6 million small businesses in America, that financial need is especially important for female entrepreneurs.
While loans are always helpful and there is always the company credit card, it’s even better when a business can get a jumpstart with a grant. Grants are monetary gifts offered by governmental agencies, nonprofits, and even private business entities. The beauty of a grant is that it’s a one-time endowment that doesn’t have to be paid back, allowing the grantee to help get their business off the ground.
Statistics show that female entrepreneurs are less likely to receive small business funding than their male counterparts. They are more likely to receive a shorter-term loan with less capital and significantly higher interest rates.. Fortunately, several lenders, nonprofit organizations, and corporations have acknowledged the unique disadvantages faced by female entrepreneurs and begun to offer grant money to support self-employed women.
These entities are attempting to reduce gender inequality and build the economy with these small business grants for women through the SBA, National Women’s Business Council, and other resources. Learn about 11 grants offered to women-owned startups.
Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant
Eileen Fisher is an upscale fashion brand with a long history of active support for women and girls. The primary focus of Eileen Fisher’s grant program is to encourage women to fully participate in society by finding their voices in community service and environmental sustainability.
Eileen Fisher founded her company with $350 of her own savings more than 30 years ago and she has exhibited a continuous interest in ensuring that other women have access to the same opportunities. At present, Eileen Fisher offers one grant program aimed at supporting women in environmental justice, and you can apply directly on the company website. Award amounts range from $10,000 to $40,000, and eligibility rests on meeting one or all of the following criteria:
- Training women and girls in climate advocacy, mitigation, and adaptation
- Enhancing overall decision-making participation of women and girls
- Helping women thrive in a sustainable enterprise or market
Amber Grant Foundation
If you’re looking for the most straightforward and simple application process, look no further than the Amber Grant, offered monthly by WomensNet. WomensNet is a powerful resource in its own right, as it’s a female-run collective of online resources for women business owners.
Set up in honor of a young woman who died before achieving her own business dreams, the $10,000 to $25,000 Amber Grant is awarded monthly and requires only that female applicants describe their business ideas in passionate, noncorporate terms. There is a nominal application fee of $15 and applications must be received by the final day of each calendar month.
FedEx Small Business Grant
Offered to U.S.-based small businesses looking to grow and scale, the FedEx Small Business Grant is not explicitly for women-run entrepreneurship but actively encourages women entrepreneurs to apply. Ten winners are awarded funding from FedEx every year; the first person to receive this grant was the founding CEO of Darn Good Yarn, Nicole Snow.
One lucky winner takes home the grand prize of $25,000 and $7,500 more in business services provided by FedEx. The second-place recipient receives $15,000 and an additional $5,000 in FedEx services, while the remaining eight winners each get $7,500 and $1,000 in printing services. The next contest is slated for announcement in early 2021. Keep an eye on the official grant page for emerging details.
Girlboss Foundation Grant
Women entrepreneurs with a nose for fashion may be fans of Girlboss’s legendary leader, Sophia Amoruso, or familiar with her meteoric rise through her own label, Nasty Gal. Prepare to be an even bigger supporter when you find out that she’s been giving other women in the arts a financial leg up since 2014, with the objective of empowering the next generation of girl bosses.
Having given away more than $130,000 in grant funding to female business owners so far, the Girlboss Foundation Grant awards each winner $15,000 in project funding and featured advertising from Girlboss. This grant is intended for those who can demonstrate innovation, creativity, and ambition in the fields of fashion, design, music, or other artistic fields. You’ll also need to identify as female, have a solid business plan available, reside in the United States, and be 18 years of age or older at the time of the application submission.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program works in conjunction with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer various grants to small businesses working on valuable, marketable research. If you have an innovative technological idea, developmental project, or cutting-edge approach to a service, this grant could supply your company with as much as $260,000 just in the research and development phase of your business. If you prove that your idea is commercially viable, that amount can increase to over $1 million over the course of a two-year disbursement.
Eligibility requirements for these grants are a bit more complex, as they are offered by multiple governmental entities and awards are ongoing throughout the calendar year. However, all grant winners must be able to prove that their businesses are:
- Comprised of 500 or fewer employees
- At least 50% owned by a United States citizen
- Operating for profit
Although not exclusively offered to women, these grants encourage women to apply and have assisted numerous female-led businesses in achieving their research goals.
Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
The Cartier Women’s Initiative is committed to promoting women’s impact on businesses. In that spirit, each year, this organization offers 21 awardees capital and mentored business support through its longstanding Regional Awards, as well as recently instituting the new Science and Technology Pioneer Award to recognize female-led advances in technological innovation. Applications can be found on the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award website.
The top seven regional grant awardees receive $100,000 and the remaining 14 finalists take home $30,000. These grant amounts remain the same for the Science and Technology Pioneer Award but only go out to three awardees. Winners of any Cartier grant are also enrolled in Cartier’s fellowship program, which provides invaluable one-on-one business mentoring, peer learning, and international media visibility.
The major qualifications for eligibility center on your company being in its early stages (within three years of founding), impact-based, and founded or led by a woman. This grant application also requires applicants to make the time commitment associated with the fellowship program.
Open Meadows Foundation Grant
Open Meadows Foundation is a volunteer grant-making organization interested in promoting projects with an emphasis on racial, gender, or economic justice. The main criterion for eligibility is that your project is led by and benefits the lives of women and girls.
Open Meadow Foundation grants inject up to $2,000 in women-led partnerships focused on activism and have limited financial access. Small businesses and startups are prioritized and new application announcements are made frequently on the official website. You can also fill out a proposal cover sheet to get a better idea of where your business may most align with an existing Open Meadows grant.
Tory Burch Foundation
Having founded her own company in 2004 with a small team that she operated out of her kitchen, Tory Burch has committed her foundation to supporting other women entrepreneurs through the unique challenges of being a female in the business world. The Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program has partnered with Bank of America to help pair women business owners with community lenders who can offer their young businesses affordable financing.
While individual lenders will have different eligibility criteria, the general must-haves include:
- A solid credit score
- A minimum of two years in business and generating revenue
- A sustainable business with an interest in growth
Although not a grant in the traditional monetary sense, this type of loan program is provided by banks with a stated interest in serving underserved markets. As such, their structure and management are geared toward a more supportive manner and the emphasis is placed on making your company’s financial life easier — a “grant” of a different kind! Fill out the loan pre-screen form to see if you qualify.
If you’re seeking a place to search for woman-friendly funding, GrantsforWomen.org is the database of your dreams. This resource provides updated information on available grants for women and what to look for in different grant types (federal, corporate, private, etc.).
While the grant options listed on GrantsforWomen.org are not directed solely at woman-led businesses, they address such a wide array of industries and interests that it’s worth it to check here. Individual eligibility and grant amounts are determined by the independent awarding institutions, but grants are easily navigable and searchable.
If you’re hunting for a federal grant for your female-owned small business, Grants.gov is the hub you need. Featuring only grants sponsored by the United States government, everything you see on this site is available to both male and female applicants. This means you’ll need to hone your search terms to those restrictive to small business owners.
As more than a dozen governmental agencies provide funding listed on Grants.gov, options exist here that you might not have considered before. Individual criteria and awards will vary with government grants, but you’ll be surprised by what you can get a grant for.
You can check your eligibility and search grants suitable for your company from the website’s homepage. New grants offered by the federal government become available throughout the year.
State and Local Small Business Grants for Women
In your active search for grant opportunities, don’t forget to include local possibilities. Small and local business grants are often available based on where you plan to operate. Be sure to make an appointment with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE office.
Some areas even foster specialized women’s business centers. These organizations are plugged into the local financing community and can guide you if there are any small business grants for women from local corporations, philanthropic organizations, or economic development organizations.
Find a Grant to Jumpstart Your Small Business Today
The number of women-led businesses in the U.S. still lags behind many other developed countries. Female entrepreneurs often have to work harder with fewer resources than men to make their dream come to life. But if you qualify for one of the many grants intended to boost women-led small businesses and startups, you can hit the ground running to give yourself the best chance for success.
If you need help with any portion of forming your business — in advance of applying for grants — call on ZenBusiness for assistance. Our customizable plans, services, and resources can see you through the mountains of paperwork associated with launching (and funding) your woman-owned small business.